Manitoba

Winnipeg woman loses 3 family members in a year to suspected fentanyl overdoses

The sister of a Winnipeg woman who died of a suspected fentanyl overdose this week does not believe the young mother knowingly took the drug and now she's calling for action to get it off of Canadian streets.

Aatlanta Asham has lost her cousin, uncle and now her sister to suspected fentanyl overdoses

Aatlanta Asham (left) says her sister Aayla was loving, generous mother of two. (Submitted)

The sister of a Winnipeg woman who died of a suspected fentanyl overdose this week does not believe the young mother knowingly took the drug and now she's calling for action to get it off of Canadian streets.

Aayla Asham, 21, was one of three people found dead in an Inkster Gardens area home on Tuesday. Lab results are pending but police believe the deaths are linked to fentanyl.

Aatlanta Asham says her sister Aayla would have never taken the drug because the pair have lost two family members —  an uncle and a cousin — to fentanyl overdoses within the last year. 

She knew three languages, she knew English, Spanish and French — she was very smart — she wasn't just a drug addict.- Aatlanta Asham 

"A piece of me left with her. She was my everything," Asham said, fighting back tears. "My sister would never do fentanyl."

Asham said her sister was renting a room in the Petriw Bay home with the man and woman who also died.  Aayla had been working to overcome a recent addiction to cocaine and Asham said she had been on several waiting lists for treatment since September.

"She had a cocaine problem, but she was getting over it. We were helping her. And that's why no one [saw] this coming, because she was doing better," she said. "She was trying to get better for her babies."

When she hadn't heard from her sister for two days this week she knew something was wrong. She found out the tragic news that her sister had died over social media.

Asham suspects Aayla used cocaine that was cut with fentanyl. She wants to see an end to the manufacturing of the drug and a more aggressive crackdown on drug dealers.

"Maybe make better laws for that so the dealers could be held responsible for their actions. They know what they're doing," she said. "Everyone sees that it's killing all these people." 

On her right ring finger, Asham wears a fine silver band with tiny diamond — Aayla's favourite ring, she says proudly.

Growing up, she says her older sister acted like a second mother, making her meals and tucking her into bed, while their own mother worked several jobs to support them.

"She was a sister, she was a daughter, she was a mother. She was an amazing person," she said. "She knew three languages, she knew English, Spanish and French — she was very smart — she wasn't just a drug addict."

Asham is calling for people to join her a rally at the Manitoba Legislature on Monday to push for more action from politicians to fight fentanyl. And she is going to continue speaking out until there is change. 

"I am not going to let my sister die in vain," she said.

About the Author

Jill Coubrough

Reporter, CBC News

Jill Coubrough is a video journalist with CBC News based in Winnipeg. Before joining CBC Manitoba, she worked as a reporter for CBC News in Halifax and an associate producer for CBC's documentary series Land and Sea. She holds a degree in political studies from the University of Manitoba and a degree in journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax. Email: jillian.coubrough@cbc.ca.